Just Words, Shared

Al Giordano has no patience for spleen spilled over shared words:

The shrieking accusation out of the Clinton camp that Obama somehow “plagiarized” some words about words from (his good friend) Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick Saturday night demonstrates just how stuck in the last century that entire team has been especially since the boys hounded Patty Solis Doyle out of the war room.  [...]

While they try to relive 1988 (minus the Sasso getting fired part of it), they don’t at all grasp how their argument sounds like that of big media companies nagging the childrens not to pirate videos and CDs, they don’t “get” the entire concept of “sampling” that has made rap and other musical genres so much fun to listen to, and they sound like a bunch of self-appointed nannies: Deval Patrick certainly has no complaint about sharing words with his buddy, but they even think they know what is best for him.  [...]

There’s a war going on. The economy’s a mess. The natural world is under grave threat. There’s a couple hundred million unmet human needs in America and various billion around the world, a US Constitution in tatters, I could go on but you get the point… And they’ve just spent the entire day screaming about this?

This is, indeed, how culture works.  You build on what others have done.  Senator Obama should have given my home-state Governor Deval Patrick credit for the precise construction of this obvious defense to the bizarre claim that speeches don't matter in U.S. politics.  Obama immediately said he made a mistake and should have done so.

The only thing that should be damaging to Obama from the juxtaposition is that Patrick had a better presentation.  This could only become an issue in a media equally out of touch as Clinton's strategists.  Hey guys, did you notice neither of them credited Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or Thomas Jefferson either?

That this will be a non-issue is a healthy sign. While attribution is important for many reasons (and not just in the academic and literary words), sharing is essential in politics, technology, the economy, and anywhere we want to get things done. We borrow when we build, and we have a lot of building to do.

So with a tip to Drupal – that's open source free software – developer Larry Garfield, who has this quotation in his e-mail signature, the idea that ideas are made to be shared is not new:

"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it." — Thomas Jefferson

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